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Biochip Takes the Next Step Toward Replacing Animal Testing
Posted: December 18, 2007
A new biochip technology could vastly reduce animal testing in the cosmetics and other chemical industries, as well as reduce its use in the development of new pharmaceuticals, according to an announcement from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Researchers at RPI, the University of California at Berkeley, and Solidus Biosciences Inc. have designed two biochips, the DataChip and the MetaChip, that are combined to reveal the potential toxicity of chemicals and drug candidates and whether those compounds will become toxic when metabolized in the body--all in one experiment without the use of animals.
Traditional toxicity testing has used animals to predict whether a chemical or drug candidate is toxic. However, according to RPI, with the large number of compounds being generated in the pharmaceutical industry and new legislation stipulating that chemicals undergo toxicity analysis, there is a rapidly emerging need for high-throughput toxicity testing.
“We looked at the issues facing companies and realized that we needed to develop something that was low-cost, high-throughput, easily automatable and that did not involve animals,” said co-lead author Jonathan S. Dordick, a former professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer and co-founder of Solidus Biosciences Inc., the company commercializing the chips, in a press statement. “We developed the MetaChip and DataChip to deal with the two most important issues that need to be assessed when examining the toxicity of a compound--the effect on different cells in [the] body and how toxicity is altered when the compound is metabolized.”
When the biochips are used together the result is a promising and affordable alternative to animal-based toxicology screening and a direct route to developing safe, effective drugs, according to reports. Currently, detailed toxicity screening does not come into the drug discovery process until later in the development, when significant time and money have already been invested in a compound.
Additionally, results on animals often are not equivalent to results on humans. Thus, the research team views the combined chips as an efficient, more accurate way to test drug compounds for human toxicity earlier in the discovery process.